In Tuesday's post, "Three Things I Wish I Had Known", the second thing goes back to unmet expectations.
In that post I said, "It's okay if you don't feel like you love her from the first second you lay eyes on her, or even the first year or so." That doesn't mean you don't have to act like you do. She needs to see you love her, not just tell her.
Maybe it's different for you. Maybe you adopted an older child and from the moment you saw her the emotions that we equate with love just washed right over you and stayed. That was not my experience. At all. Three times.
Does that mean I didn't love them? No. It means that every day I had to choose love. Every day I had to hug her and kiss her and sit next to her and teach her and include her even when I didn't "feel" like it, because that's what she needed. Was I faking it? Um...yes...in the beginning.
Why did I have to fake it? Because this new kid is so difficult. It's incredibly hard to "feel" love when really all you feel is disappointment, discouragement and some days, even regret. I can't tell my body how to "feel," but I can tell it how to act. That's what got me through those hard-to-handle years with Hannah. Did I do it perfectly? No. Where there days that my actions didn't look like love? Yes. When that happened I just asked for her forgiveness and tried again.
As you live out those hard, early days of adoption, just know that it doesn't have to work the way you thought it would. You don't have to feel the way you thought you would and the best you can do that day will sometimes have to be good enough.
God is faithful. Time and time again He took my meager attempts and made them something I couldn't have done on my own. I didn't walk this path alone. He was with me every step of the way. On the days I felt lonely, He was my friend. On the days my heart broke, He was my comforter. On the days I just couldn't do it anymore, He was my strength. He understood when no one else did.
The adoption process is complicated enough without adding to your burden. Shake the guilt that comes with not feeling the way you're "supposed" to. Aren't I supposed to love this child? Isn't she supposed to immediately feel a part of the family? Well, that would be nice, but if it's not how it unfolds, then you're going to have to work with how it is and not how it's supposed to be.
Many times I got caught up in how it was "supposed" to be. Unfortunately, I have to live with what it actually is. So if you're on day 67 and it feels like she is out to push every single button you have, you might not be "feeling" love, but you need to show it anyway. It's a choice you have to make. It's not an easy one, (believe me, I know) but it's the right one to make.
Rest assured, one day it will no longer be hard to choose love. One day you'll wake up and realize that your feelings have somehow caught up with your reality. That hug will no longer be forced. You'll no longer dread picking her up from school, but will actually look forward to it. You'll look around your dinner table and have a hard time imagining life without her, and believe it or not, that will actually make you smile. I promise.